We have had mail from a reader who is concerned about a loved one who is Catholic and yet uses Hare Krishna beads, subscribes to Back to Godhead magazine and believes the mind can control our destiny. Can Catholics be involved in these activities?
Judging by both the use of the beads and subscription to Back to Godhead Magazine, this person is very much involved in the Krishna consciousness movement.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is the main organization for this movement and describes itself as a religious philosophy that belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradaya, a monotheistic tradition within the Vedic and Hindu cultural traditions.
Its beliefs are based on a select Indian scripture known as the Bhagavad-gita, which is believed to be the spiritual teachings spoken by Lord Krishna who is revered as the “Supreme Personality of Godhead”. The text teaches that the goal of life is to develop love of God, or Krishna. Love of God is realized through the practice of bhakti-yoga, the science of devotional service.
ISKCON was founded in order to spread Krishna consciousness/bhakti yoga. The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which means “to adore or worship God.” Bhakti yoga is considered to be a devotional yoga with a great emphasis on meditation. There is also a great emphasis on chanting the name of Krishna, which is done on the aforementioned beads. (The practice of chanting the name of a deity on beads is known in Sanskrit as japa.)
Hare Krishna devotees actually worship Lord Chaitanya who lived during the 15th century and revitalized the bhakti yoga tradition in India. They believe Chaitanya is an incarnation of Krishna, similar to how Christians believe Jesus is the incarnation of God the Father. Krishna followers believe that we all worship the same God, just call him by a different name.
The beliefs of Krishna devotees are diametrically opposed to Christianity. For instance, they believe in reincarnation and that we are “spirit souls” rather than body and spirit as Catholics believe. Krishnas also believe that the Truth is contained in the Vedas (Hindu scripture) rather than in the Bible.
Rather than praying, Krishna devotees chant God’s name over and over again, believing that this will enable them to be set free from all illusion.
“By this chanting, which is exactly like the genuine cry of a child for his mother, we cleanse from our hearts the false consciousness that we are the lords of all we survey. As the illusions drop off, our true, happy, eternal spiritual consciousness revives. We return to our natural position as servants of the Lord, and ultimately the Lord reveals Himself when we sincerely chant this maha-mantra,” writes Madhyama Devi Dasi in Back to Godhead magazine, which is an ISKCON publication.
He explains: “The chanting of Hare Krsna is not a material sound. It has nothing to do with chakras, oxygen levels, hypnosis, positive thinking, or anything merely mental or mechanical. Nor is the mantra to be chanted just for material benefits, such as wealth, fame, or even our daily bread. Hare Krsna is a purely spiritual sound, so it takes you at once to the spiritual platform, surpassing all lower stages of consciousness, whether sensual, mental, or intellectual.”
The insistence that Krishna is the same as all other gods can easily lead the poorly catechized Catholic into believing this is true and that there’s no danger in adopting these practices.
Also disturbing is the constant repetition of the mantra and subsequent altered state of consciousness, which renders a person highly susceptible to the influence of demonic entities.
In order to subscribe to Krishna consciousness, one would have to believe that the mind is capable of controlling our destiny because devotees believe that by chanting the name of their god, all of “life will be sublime.”
God is in control of our destiny and the belief that we can effectively change His will through the performance of some kind of action is to believe we have more power than God Himself.